Farscape/Batman: Dark Knight, Rising Son, Pt. 1

 

Prologue: A Dark Night Descends

October 3, 2007

Jack Crichton laughed. "I'm serious. The view is literally out of this world."

"That joke is older than you are."

He was serious, too. There was little cloud cover over the Earth, providing a spectacular view of Australia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. It was what made the observation port the most popular spot on the International Space Station. The seven-member crew awoke every morning to beautiful panoramas as they floated overhead, their station on-line and operational for almost a full year.

He floated in front of the communications console, holding a white-knuckle grip on the control panel to better appreciate the image of the attractive female on the video monitor. After a week of horticulture experiments, a full day of repair work on the solar panels and four hours of non-stop video conferencing with the suits at the International Aeronautics Space Administration, all he wanted now was face-to-face time with his wife.

"Are they trying to work you till you collapse?"

She was teasing him again, but it never failed to brighten his day. "I'm fine, Leslie. We're breaking for dinner in a bit and calling it a day. I wish you and little John could be here. You both would love it."

"Doubtful," she laughed, thinking about how a five-year-old would respond to zero gravity. "I've enough work to do just keeping an eye on him. Oh, by the way, his teacher says he's reading at a second grade level already."

"That's my boy. He'll be following in his old man's footsteps."

"HA! Not if I have something to say about it."

Leslie always did. She was as willful as the little boy they were raising. Not that he would have wanted her any other way. She was the only one he ever knew who did not take any guff from him. What a woman, he thought.

"I really have to go now. We can talk again tomorrow. Kiss John goodnight for me, will you?"

"I will." Her voice trailed off a bit. She was becoming sad; he could always tell.

"I love you."

"Love you too. Bye."

Her image faded from the screen. He missed her- as much as he missed little John. Assignments on the ISS were for six full months, and he had only been on board for three weeks. Video calls were random at best, but necessary for his sanity since the IASA bigwigs did not schedule flights in between projects for astronauts to visit their families.

Work now, three months annual leave later, he told himself. After all, John will only be young once.

The second shift crewmembers were already gathered in the dining compartment, dining on bags labeled minestrone, barbeque chicken patties and orange juice. How they could tell the difference was beyond him. Except for color, they all looked alike once they were in the bags. They were nutritious, perhaps, but he preferred fried chicken and ribs with a side of grits any day to them. But he was hungry, so he grabbed a packet of dark red and a tube of yellow anyway.

"Hello, Sergei."

Sergei Rubavitch looked up from his meal, and shifted to accommodate his shipmate. "Evening, Colonel. Did you hear the message IASA sent us?"

Jack bit into his chicken patty. "Which one is that? I got several from them today."

ÎThis is the one that says Hubble telescope caught some images of an object heading this way. They want us to keep an eye on it."

"What is it, a meteor?"

Sergei shook his head. "Doubt it. Could be American paranoia, but I swear they're a little nervous about it."

"Why?"

"We were getting to that Colonel, but we didn't want to alarm you, especially while you were talking to your wife."

Jack turned to see James Gordon, his second in command, floating into the dining area. He never had the look on his face that he did unless it was something that would be considerably less than pleasing.

"Actually Colonel, you should finish that quick and come with me. There's something I want to show you."

***

They were gathered in the main command module when the message started up. All eyes fixed on the main video monitor. A series of images played in random order, transmitted from the Hubble telescope's database.

It was not a meteor. Silhouetted against the planet Jupiter was the outline of a ship. It was a long cylindrical construction with a large ring interconnected to it. Jack looked on in childlike astonishment. It had to be enormous to be photographed at that distance.

"Any idea what it is?" His gaze remained locked on the images.

James shook his head. "It's nothing we made, that's for sure. IASA estimates it's almost a mile in length. We do know it's heading this way according to estimated trajectory, and they're slowing down. IASA wants us to broadcast a message, to try and make contact with them."

"Sounds like a plan. Let's hope they come in peace."

"And if they don't tovarisch?" Comrade Sergei never hid his pessimism. "What do they want us to keep them in line with, harsh language?"

Jack said nothing. They were coming, whether they liked it or not. A friendly nod their way might help if it was to be first contact.

Following IASA protocol, they broadcast several messages, each in different Earth languages. The ship was still moving fast and would be approaching shortly. There had been no response, so they resigned themselves to wait and see if it yielded any results.

***

Tomoko quietly watched the view screen in the command module, volunteering to keep watch. Several hours had passed since the greetings had been transmitted, with no reply heard. She was the only female member currently aboard, and said she needed what she called a "non-masculine diversion." Jack gave her the shift and remained close by making coffee while the others rested.

A small object appeared on the screen.

"Colonel?"

It was approaching the station and slowing down.

Tomoko hit the alarm. "There's a small ship approaching!"

Most of the other crewmembers streamed into the command module while they looked out an observation portal at the unidentified craft. It was slightly larger than the Farscape evacuation module docked under the ISS. It was box shaped, with two pods extending out the sides towards the front of the craft. A pulsing light shot out of the top of the craft, streaming over the body of the ISS.

"What are they doing?" Jack said.

"Must be a scout ship. I'd reckon they're sizing us up, figuring out who we are," said James. "We should send another message."

Jack floated over to the communications console and picked up the microphone. "Unidentified craft, this is Colonel Jack Crichton, commander of the International Space Station. Please identify yourself and state your intentions. We are a peaceful world, and we offer you our friendship."

First there was silence, and then a high-pitched distortion came through the receiver that made everyone wince just before they received their reply.

"Huk tiujj sweewon ellfattsu zwaon Zelbinion. Huk nelzzun toi ajun ka tarznikniyun!"

James's jaw dropped. "What the hell was that? It sounded like backwards talking."

Jack held up the microphone again. "Unidentified craft, we don't understand your language. Do you have any way to translate?"

A tremendous explosion rocked the station and threw the ISS crewmembers against the stations bulkhead. The hissing sound of air escaping announced a hull breach in the station.

"Was that their translation?" Sergei asked.

My God, they're firing at us, Jack thought to himself, already knowing the answer.

Through the portal, yellow bolts of light were coming out of the strange craft, striking the Japanese Experimental Module linked above them.

"Seal the hatch!" Jack said. "We have to get to the escape ship now!"

"Colonel, Arashi and Ito are still in the JEM above us!" Tomoko said, starting to panic. "We have to save them! We-"

She never finished. An explosion cut her off. There was a loud burst following by a high-pitched shriek that sounded of oxygen escaping rapidly. Jack scanned the module quickly for the leak; there was none. The shriek had streamed out of Tomoko, now crying hysterically. A tattered body that floated out of view outside told them the end result. The JEM shattered under the craft's energy weapons. The second Japanese crewman must have disintegrated instantly. They were the first to die against the invaders.

"Goddamn murderers." Jack cursed. The ISS had offered the hand of friendship, and got bit- hard. "We have to abandon ship now! Everybody, move it before they get us, too."

Further explosions rocked the station. Sergei contacted the other Russian crewman at the far end of the station while Jack led the others down below the habitation module to where the Farscape evacuation vehicle was docked.

Reaching the cockpit, they could see clearly what was happening up above. Fast moving ships that resembled fighter planes had joined the craft- Prowlers, as they would learn later. They passed in a strafing run, firing their weapons down upon the ISS. The truss assembly was already disintegrating, with remnants of solar panels and cables flying past the Farscape's windows. Several of the modules in the front of the ISS had already imploded. Jack could see bright flashes above the ship and felt the whole station shaking.

He prepped the ship for immediate departure as the remaining crew entered in. Tomoko, James and Sergei nearly completed the head count. The other Russian member of the station still remained absent.

"Sergei, where's Viktor?"

The Russian pointed out to the front window. "Does that answer your question?"

Directly in front of the Farscape, a Soyuz craft, the second evacuation vehicle was undocking, attempting to flee from the rapidly disintegrating station.

Jack felt his heart skip. "Dammit, why didn't he come with us?"

"There was no time," Sergei said. "All the modules have collapsed. He would be out there dead with Arashi and Ito now if he had."

"I think you spoke too soon." Tomoko said quietly, her voice trembling.

While the Farscape undocked, Jack and the others watched as the craft that had first approached them hover between them and the Soyuz module. It began to turn towards the Russian craft, powering up its weapons.

"Bastards!" Jack hollered. "He doesn't have a chance! Isn't it enough they chased us off the station?"

The craft's weapons flashed and the Soyuz module exploded. Earth was only spared for a moment the knowledge that the first humans had perished at the hands of aliens.

The fire from the burning Russian ship quickly died out, and the craft turned its attention to the Farscape module. The survivors went silent as they watched its approach. Screaming in terror seemed like a moot point.

"Now we die as well." James's voice echoed their thoughts. It was hard to see any other outcome.

"Like hell. That's not going to happen," Jack said.

Using the maneuvering jets on the Farscape, he quickly rotated the ship around with its back facing the alien craft. He waited for it to close the distance between them. Through the exterior cameras, he saw the glow where the craft powered up its weapons. As it came directly in range behind them, he pressed the ignition switch, igniting the Farscape's main rockets.

The engines roared to life, shooting out a long white-hot tongue of flame that bathed the alien craft, burning through its hull. Farscape sped away rapidly, widening the distance between them and the station. Jack looked back and saw the ship explode, much to his satisfaction.

It had been a Marauder, the eyes, ears and claws of the enemy. Its destruction earned them the only victory the humans would have in space against them.

"That was for the others."

"So now what?" Sergei asked.

"Now, we get back in one piece," Jack said. "We have to let IASA and everyone else with an operating military know what just happened. There has to be some way to stop·"

He never finished the sentence. From a distance, Jack and the other ISS survivors saw the giant black ship as it came into view. It was the same one the Hubble had photographed earlier. Its size beggared description, even bigger than they had imagined.

A set of three guns rotated into view on the giant ring that circled the Command Carrier. The frag cannons fired a massive burst of energy down upon the ISS. They watched in horror as the International Space Station, hundreds of billions of dollars in cost and six plus years of construction were destroyed in an instant.

The Peacekeeper onslaught had begun. They most assuredly had not come in peace.

***

Part 1: A Slave to the Grind

October 3, 2037 (Earth calendar), Gotham City

He was dreaming- again.

It was the same dream he re-lived for years. In dim shades of gray he saw the bad men surrounding the boy and his parents in a dark place- an alley or back street, taunting and prodding them. Fear seized hold of him. Tears ran down the cheeks of the young boy's eyes. His father, protective and defiant, cursed them soundly while holding his wife close to him.

There was a flash, a burst of heat and then silence. He turned to see his father and mother falling over dead. The smoking wound left by a weapon was visible on their chests. He felt himself paralyzed, unable to cry or speak. All around him the bad men laughed mockingly. In his world he became totally and completely alone.

A shadow appeared just then and covered everyone. Even the bad men looked up, startled at the apparition. The boy stared in terror at the dark mass. Was it a wraith? Maybe it was the angel of death itself. A pair of leathery wings stretched out to an impossible width. He could hear the fluttering of the wings just before waking to a loud buzzing that filled his ears·

John Crichton opened his eyes. The alarm clock had been going off for a full minute. He covered his eyes with his hand, trying to adjust them to the light that shone through his bedroom window. Jackhammers raged on in his head, considering the hard throbbing. He drank too much last night, just like every other night. His foot contacted an empty whiskey bottle as he moved off his bed and nearly slipped. He moaned loudly, wishing it were not Monday, but it was. It was time to get up and go to work for his masters.

After a quick shower and shave, he selected a pair of slate-gray pants and a pressed white shirt to go with his black shoes and tie. He disliked having to wear a white-collar outfit for them, but his Peacekeeper employers insisted on a dress code.

It's not like there was much choice. He did what they told him. He already used up most of the sick time he was allotted for the year, and being late could bring penalties. Co-workers and friends droned over and over not to do anything rash to jeopardize what he had: a nice apartment in the best section of Gotham City, his own car and the benefits and privileges of having a high profile job, even if it was a master-slave relationship. The Peacekeepers were rarely so generous to the rest of the populace. Many humans struggled to get goods and services. He had it easy compared to most.

Downing a glass of orange juice and a bagel, he took the elevator down to the garage and slid into his car. It was better to stay ahead of the morning traffic, to avoid showing up late. He made it a point to be punctual, but never early. Just like the way he used up his sick leave, he would not give the Peacekeepers any more of his time than he had to.

Gotham's city streets remained wide, and he quickly turned the corners passing graffiti strewn walls and crumbling buildings. Many of the people standing on the corners and walking the sidewalks looked haggard, and not because they just woke up. A hard life under Peacekeeper occupation was an understatement. Peacekeepers considered Earth a fruit ripe for harvest, which is why they plundered its resources like there would be no tomorrow. The fact that there was also an oppressed but intelligent species living there that happened to look Sebacean was of little concern to them.

They herded people into the city areas to better watch them, and maximized farming and mining operations in the rural and wilderness areas into strictly controlled collectives- just like elsewhere on Earth. Video cameras peered out from buildings, armored vehicles cruised around with mounted pulse guns and checkpoints patrols clad in black were seen all over the city. The Peacekeepers wanted complete control, and they had it.

John slowed his car down. To his left on a wide space of wall that remained where an old store had once stood, someone had spray-painted a message on the wall in big letters·

PREPARE FOR THE RETURN OF THE BATMAN

Batman? He was supposed to be an old urban legend according to Peacekeeper propaganda. To Gotham's old timers before the invasion he was a real flesh and blood man. To everyone else, he was merely a pipe dream. John doubted the legend. He had never laid eyes on him, not even as a child or he would have remembered. Years of working for the Peacekeepers had given him first-hand experience at the strange and unusual, not to mention making him a bitter, jaded, remorseful...

He stopped himself. He hated going to that place in his head. It was best not to think about it. Better to get back to the real world.

His reality consisted of working for the Peacekeepers' science projects while they harvested billions of tons of ore, oil, uranium and other precious materials to ship back to their home systems. They needed plenty of fuel to further their other conquests.

If only there was a Batman today to fight the Peacekeepers. Whoever wrote the message on the wall was lucky they were not shot dead. There was no such luck for the former. He shook his head and continued on, stomping down on the gas pedal.

If only·

Turning at the next red light, the tall silvery spire of the Peacekeeper Tower came into view. Twice the height of the next tallest building in Gotham, the residents referred to it as the stiletto that stabbed Earth in the back. He simply referred to it as his workplace.

The Peacekeeper guard in the booth glanced indifferently at John's identification card and promptly sent him through. John stifled the urge to give the guard the finger as he saluted his car's entry into the building. The day had just started- no sense in making it worse. They were known to shoot at the human's for a lot less.

"Good morning. You look like crap," said DK, John's lab partner and childhood friend as he walked into the office.

"I feel like crap," John said. "Did you make coffee yet?"

"Just made a fresh pot." DK watched him walk past without another word. "We have the results from the magnetic wave tests if you want to see them."

"Great. Put them on my desk. I'll stare at them totally uninterested in a little while."

DK looked at him, worried. "John, don't let them hear you say that. You don't want to-"

"Blow what I have· yeah, yeah. I've heard the speech before. Jesus Christ, you practically wrote it."

"Maybe. So, what's bothering you?"

John poured himself a cup of coffee and took a deep drink before answering. "I had the dream again last night. In black and white and full Dolby stereo surround sound."

"The dream?"

"Yep."

"Don't you think you should see a doctor about it? I mean it seems to be happening a lot. And your drinking might be helping to exasperate the problem."

John stared at him hard, and then turned away. "That's great, DK. You think a doctor will help? Jack Crichton's boy is going nuts from a bad dream, and he's an alcoholic. The moment they see the doctor's report, our Peacekeeper Gestapo will send me to Arkham Asylum. Do you know what they actually do to people there?"

"Dammit John, keep your voice down. They're always listening. Don't you remember what happened to Alex?" DK was a worrier, and he worried a hell of a lot these days. John was on his way to becoming a candidate for reprogramming, and that could include close associates. Peacekeeper techniques were painfully efficient, and DK was aware of them all. John never calmed his fears, not even a little.

"I don't want to talk about it."

"But-"

"I said I don't want to talk about it."

DK sighed. "All right, I'm sorry. Can we try and get on the right foot this morning?"

John rubbed his head softly. "Okay, okay. I'm sorry, too. Where are those magnetic wave results again?"

John and DK walked into the huge chamber where the human and Peacekeeper scientists performed various tests on the heavily guarded machines that were set up all over the building. Throughout the day, fluctuations in the electromagnetic spectrum were measured, energy particle accelerations were sampled and board meetings with the members of Peacekeeper High Command lasted for arns- hours. They were insistent on results from the work they had the humans assisting them with.

John put on his best look of cooperation while desperately trying to kill his conscience. He told himself he was not betraying Earth, that he was merely a victim of circumstances. The excuse never worked.

***

"Good night, Dr. Crichton."

John off-handedly waved to the Peacekeeper guard who opened the gate for him. He preferred to keep contact with them to a minimum. After all, irreversible contamination could work both ways, or so Dr. Kanor, the head Peacekeeper scientist, would joke to him. "You don't want to cause one of us to suffer irreversible contamination from contact with a foreign species, do you, Dr. Crichton? We may have to eliminate you as well, and who wants that to happen?"

John would only smile politely at the pun while fighting the urge to punch out the obnoxious ass that he was.

Stepping on the gas pedal, he sped off into Gotham's wet, neon-lit streets. It was early evening, when Gotham really came to life. It had long been considered a city of the night even before the coming of the Peacekeepers. He cranked up the heater on his dashboard; it was chilly for October. He needed a bite to eat, as well as another bottle of scotch- or maybe some merlot. But more importantly, he had to meet someone from the resistance.

Turning onto a dimly lit street, his eyes focused on the cul-de-sac at the far end where a tall figure stood silently, awaiting his arrival. As he pulled up in front of a green trash bin streaked brown with rust, he could see a middle-aged woman under the lone streetlight.

She was strikingly beautiful. Her long dark hair had a streak of silver running through it in the front. Her figure was quite solid beneath her tight clothes for a woman of her age. Of all the Earth resistance contacts he had met, she was not one of them. He would have definitely remembered her.

"My face is up here, handsome."

Minding his manners, John cleared his throat and straightened himself. "Are you Selina?"

She held a long black cigarette up to her mouth. He watched the tip glow as smoke billowed out between a pair of bee-stung lips.

"Who else would I be, Poison Ivy? No, she died pretty quick when the PKs hit this burg. Or so I was told."

He tilted his head. "You know who I am?"

"I've heard of you. You work for your Peacekeeper masters during the day, and help pass along Earth resistance info at night. Tell me, does it help you to sleep?" She threw the cigarette down and crushed it under her boot. "Or does all the booze help, too?" She walked up nose-to-nose with him to sniff at his breath. "I suppose not. Don't you ever get tired of licking Scorpius' boots?"

"Back off lady, you know nothing about me."

"More than you could imagine," she said smoothly, as she cocked her head. She reached down and picked up the package sitting on the ground beside her by the twine wrapped around it. "Here are the pamphlets. The virus chip is wrapped inside the top one. Use it cautiously when you upload it into their systems."

John took the box from her, examining it briefly. "If only it were that simple. We have to bypass their safeguards."

She chuckled slightly. "That's not my part to deal with, Johnny."

He shook his head- no point in arguing with her. "It's too bad the Batman doesn't exist. We could use help from someone like him, nowadays."

Selina's expression froze. "What do you know about the Batman?"

"He's some urban legend. A crime fighter in dark tights, used to beat the bad guys up. He must've been their boogeyman. My parents told me about him when they were alive. Whatever he was, he must have been too good to be true. Why do you ask?"

She threw back her head and laughed heartily. "How can you be so handsome, yet so clueless? Did the PKs tell you that? He WAS real, Johnny. Just like your alien masters are. When Batman was alive, this city had law and order. He kept the peace for everyone, even for a manipulative, thieving soul like me." She sighed, remembering the past. "God, do I miss that man."

John frowned. "So, what happened to him?"

She shrugged her shoulders. "Who knows? Maybe he just got tired. When the PKs came, I guess he thought he had met his match and left while he still could. Or maybe·"

"Maybe what?"

"Maybe he's just been hibernating, waiting for a day when he would come back and take back what is rightfully ours from these goose stepping Huns." Selina cocked her head at John. "It's too bad you don't believe in our heroes. You and he have more in common than you can imagine."

John looked at her, still confused. "Why do you say that?"

"For example, before your father died, did he or did he not tell you that every man gets a chance to be his own kind of hero?"

His jaw dropped. No one living could have known that. No one else was present when his father told him that just days before he died.

She held up his watch that she expertly removed from his wrist while he had accepted the parcel from her. "Booze has killed your senses. Batman would never have fallen for a simple thieves' trick like this."

He glanced down at his arm and saw a bare wrist. He never even felt the watch being removed. "Give it back," he said, becoming angry.

"Meow! So, there is still some fire left inside of you. I guess the Peacekeepers didn't smite it all out," Selina said. "That's good; you may need it down the road." She threw his watch back to him. "It's time for me to go. I need my beauty sleep. Reflect on what I said, handsome."

John turned to walk back to his car, but hesitated. "Hey Selina," he said as he turned around, "what did you mean by-"

She was gone. There was no one in the cul-de-sac but him. She had disappeared without a sound. A lone black cat ran out from behind the trash bin and stared at John for a moment before disappearing into the shadows.

***

John sat in his apartment, looking over the pamphlets in the box he had received from the mysterious woman. He paused only to take a bite out of the hamburger he picked up driving home. Distributing Earth resistance information to the population was an easy task, but using a custom made computer virus was a first. The design of it intended it to cripple all the information systems at the Peacekeeper Tower. All weapons projects the Peacekeepers had been developing would hopefully be junk by tomorrow- if they were not killed first.

He stood up to stretch. Selina's words had stung him. That there was some truth to it made it worse. Would he still have the desire to pass on resistance information a year from now? He might wash away his sorrows in a bottle for all he knew. The Peacekeepers had that effect on the majority of the populace.

Even a drink would not settle his nerves. He walked into the kitchen and opened the cupboard to where he kept his liquor stash. An unopened bottle of Johnny Walker Red stared back at him. He stood there for a long time, and then finally closed the door. It must have been worse than he thought. His hand on the cupboard handle was shaking.

John Crichton, Johnny Walker, Johnny Walker Crichton· Why not, they had worse nicknames for him.

This was not the life he- or his father- had pictured for him. But he told himself his options were severely limited the day he and his mother were killed. Bend and obey or crawl through the mud, they told him in indoctrination school. Many complied, but he could never forget the image of his parents lying dead in that alley. It was the one thing that stopped him from being their puppet, and the one thing that had broken him.

Every man gets a chance to be his own kind of hero, his father said to him once. He never felt like a hero. Heroes never drank themselves into a stupor, or used it as an excuse to numb the guilt of being alive. A drink did seem more reasonable now.

There was a beeping noise in his ears. The soft glow of green letters appeared on the blank computer screen and began spelling out something. He had left his computer on to send some encrypted e-mails to other resistance members, but he had not expected receiving any tonight, and that made any incoming message suspect. As he approached the computer slowly, his nerves began to get the best of him- could the Peacekeepers have cracked the coding he was using?

Sitting down at his desk, he read the message, source unknown:

I HAVE WATCHED YOU FOR A LONG TIME.

I KNOW YOUR PAIN. YOU SEEK ANSWERS. A SLAVE WILL NOT FIND THEM FROM HIS MASTER. YOU WILL NOT FIND THEM IN A BOTTLE. BREACH THE NORTHERN PERIMETER AND TRAVEL NORTH 40 KILOMETERS TO THE MANOR RUINS. YOU WILL FIND ME THERE.

A DARK KNIGHT WILL RISE.

Nothing else followed. Confused, he switched off the computer.

***

"Who do you think it was?" DK said, puzzled.

"No idea. But I'm sure it wasn't the Peacekeepers. There was no door being blown off the hinges and taking me off somewhere into the night to be tortured." John sighed. "It had to be an unknown code signal to get through to my system."

"Speaking of which, do you have the virus with you?"

John tapped his coat pocket, indicating the chip was still there. It resembled the standard Peacekeeper data chip, with one important exception. "I got it right here- our little yellow pill. We upload this into the PK Network, and it's nuked. I just have to get into the central chamber."

DK shook his head. "Not this time, buddy. I'm due up there for a systems check. Let me do it."

They looked around the centrifuge chamber the two of them stood in. Peacekeeper guards stood at every door and cameras kept an eye on the mass of scientists, officers and other personnel that moved about. How much video equipment does one organization need to use? If they were discovered, they would be captured before they could blink. There was one chance to us the virus program. Any mistake meant being pulse-blasted to a crisp.

"I know what you're thinking," DK said. "You're not a sellout, all right? You brought the chip this far. Most people wouldn't have the guts to do this. But now, it's my turn, ok?

"Are you sure this is foolproof?" John said, reaching into his pocket for the chip.

"Ah, Dr. Crichton, there you are."

John's hand froze leaving it in his pocket. He turned to face a tall lean man who was balding on top. Dr. Kanor reminded him of a bad b-movie actor who always played Nazis or psychos. He escorted a bearded Peacekeeper officer that approached them both.

"Dr. Crichton, DK, I would like you to meet Commissioner Bialar Crais. He was recently sent to take over the leadership for the Peacekeeper's Law Enforcement Liaison here in Gotham City." Kanor gestured towards the bearded man.

His complexion was darker than the average Peacekeeper. He wore the long black tunic that designated a high-ranking official. A silver badge on his left chest with a chain connecting it to his left shoulder epaulet symbolized Peacekeeper Law Enforcement. His stone-faced expression alone identified him as a PK cop. He did not bother with formalities, as his hands remained clasped behind his back, offering no handshake.

"Hello, Dr. Crichton," Crais said. "Although I cannot speak for Peacekeeper High Command, I can assure you we appreciate the work you do for us." He turned to DK. "I also pledge that the streets of Gotham City will be safe under my jurisdiction."

John forced a smile, trying his best to fake sincerity. "That's good to hear. I gather the good Dr. Kanor is giving you a tour of our facilities?"

"He is indeed. And I'm quite impressed with the progress here."

"Our results should be coming to fruition quite soon commissioner," Kanor said. "I believe Scorpius will be quite pleased with our project."

"Which would be·?" DK said, asking the question he and the others were not supposed to ask.

Kanor did not correct him. Everyone's attention in the chamber was fixed towards the upper level that occupied the top half of the room. A dark figure was standing by the rails looking down at the vast centrifuge.

They gazed up at a man dressed in black with a purple cloak wrapped around his shoulders. He was tall and thin, with sunken eyes and a pale complexion. Guards of the Peacekeeper's elite flanked him. John winced at the sight of him. It was rare that he ever showed his face, and judging by his appearance, it was for good reason- he literally looked like a walking corpse. It was Scorpius himself.

He walked silently along the rail, examining the people on the lower levels below him. When his stare met Johns, their gaze locked for a moment. Scorpius' eyes looked completely human, but there was an abnormal coldness that penetrated right through him.

John shuddered. He might as well have been looking at the devil. Most humans would say he was.

At last, he turned and departed, with his heavily armed entourage following him. John and the others breathed in relief. They could have cut the tension in the air with a knife.

"Don't get too many visits from him, do we?" DK said.

"No," Kanor said. "He spends most of his time in the uppermost levels of this tower. No one at our level is privy to what he does."

"And should not be," Crais added.

"Yes, of course, Commissioner." Kanor led him over to the main exit. "Let us continue your tour, there is so much left for you to see. Thank you for your time, Dr. Crichton."

"So long, ass-kisser," John said quietly through another forced smile.

DK grunted. "Yeah, notice he doesn't say anything to me?" He reached into John's pocket and snatched the chip out quickly. "I'll see you later, buddy. Wish me luck."

John watched him as he walked away, a slight bounce in his step. DK had a flair for diluting all things tense and frustrating. That ability was probably the main reason he was still sane. He always felt the need to be protective of John as if he were being reserved for some greater unannounced plan. What could be bigger than destroying the Peacekeeper computer network?

The doors slid open and DK disappeared through them. Despite their planning, it was far too easy. Something was bound to go wrong. He felt that sensation in the pit of his stomach, and he was feeling it again.

Swallowing the bile he felt accumulating in his throat, John walked back to the centrifuge.

***

The klaxons sounded just as John was picking up a computer printout. Looking up, flashing red lights pulsed over each door as they automatically sealed shut, preventing anyone from escaping. The speakers repeated the message over and over as guards and personnel scrambled about:

Warning! Unauthorized infiltration by an unidentified viral cascade into systems network·

Peacekeeper guards scrambled to round up him and the other civilians while his heart began fluctuating. The sound of pulse weapons firing through the doorways echoed in the distance. His mind began racing, imagining the worst possible scenario. DK was no soldier, so he would not stand a chance.

"Kanor, what's going on?" John said. The Peacekeeper scientist shot out of the crowd just as they were ushered to one of the emergency exits.

"Someone just tried to install a frelling virus into our systems network," Kanor vented angrily. "But before the guards could reach him, some of your brethren in the resistance movement attacked. They have already been dealt with, but we need to find out how they got in and who the saboteur was."

"My brethren?"

He said nothing further. Kanor's true colors always came out in moments like this. The spirit of cooperation he purported to preach to humans did not mean he still did not see them as lower life forms. He knew what DK's fate would be if he and any of his associates were caught.

Who were the resistance fighters in the building? Were they part of the plan to destroy the computer network? He had never been informed by DK or anyone else. They may have been acting entirely on their own, and it was a mere coincidence that they appeared when DK was uploading the virus into the Peacekeeper's database.

Not goddamned likely, John thought.

Civilian personnel were sent immediately to the ground floor to wait outside while security dealt with the skirmishes raging on in the building above them. The streets were crawling with Peacekeeper police trying to keep back crowds of curious people gathering in the front of the entrance. John looked around in the crowd; DK was nowhere to be seen.

"John!"

Barbara Gordon, one of his assistants, ran up to him. Her long red hair, previously pinned up in a bun, was coming loose and falling down around her shoulders.

"Barbara? Are you ok?"

"I'm fine, but the guards said they saw DK trying to upload a virus into the main network's console."

"Where is he?" He would not make it obvious he knew the circumstances.

"One of the cameras caught him using an emergency escape chute in the back of the tower. By now, he's already down here in the streets somewhere."

"That's right, but not to worry," Kanor said, walking up to them with a fake smile on his face. "Commissioner Crais has already dispatched a pair of hunters to apprehend him. He was one of your colleagues, Crichton. Did you not know he was planning on doing something like this?"

John kept his face expressionless. If he said anything- one word or even something insignificant to imply he knew of a sabotage attempt, he would doom himself. Peacekeeper interrogations were brutal. He would lose everything, particularly his life.

Don't do anything to blow what you have. DK's words echoed in his head.

"I had no idea, Doctor. DK was a bit· radical." He could barely whisper it. The last part took a lot out of him to say.

Barbara stared on in shock as Kanor walked away, shaking his head in disgust.

"John·"

"Don't say it Barb," John replied. "The damage is done."

***

DK could hear his heart beating in his ears and his breathing came out in hard gasps as he weaved in and out of the side streets and alleys. It was his own fault; he never exercised like he should have. He paused along the side of a trash bin and crouched down to catch his breath. There were no signs of Peacekeeper law enforcement pursuing him, but that would change.

The plan had gone from bad to worse. Place the virus chip into the Peacekeeper's master control to their computer network and destroy all the weapons projects they were working on. It should have been simple.

Who knew the Peacekeepers would change the access codes to the entrances on a workday without prior notice to all personnel? The few resistance members that made it through before the klaxons went off were quickly cut down by Peacekeeper security, and he had no cover for an escape. And the idiot computer hacker who was supposed to interrupt the cameras and alarm sensors failed to do his part. And to think, he had received a shining recommendation about his abilities from Lowell, not to mention a large sum of money for his services.

It all just went so bad.

He managed quickly to find the escape chute the Peacekeepers built for quick evacuation of the building, and reached the streets fairly quick. Removing his white lab coat and throwing it into the bin, he scanned the street back and forth before running up the block to a getaway car parked nearby. At least he thought of some kind of back up plan.

Perhaps if he told John more about what they were planning, the operation may not have gone pear-shaped. But he had hesitated; all the drinking John had done for the past two years could have made him a liability. But it was too late for recriminations. Once he was free and clear, he would try and contact him. Walking quickly down the street, he stuck close to the shadows, hoping they would afford him some cover.

He failed to notice two females silhouetted directly above him moving along the ledge of the building. They were quick and silent; stalking him like a predator stalks its prey.

There was no one on the street as he crossed the intersection to the yellow van that was parked on the other side. He was almost home free. Relief washed over him- he just needed to get to the safe house.

The female appeared out of nowhere, landing on the van's roof with a jarring thud. DK stopped dead in his tracks, and felt his heart leap. A woman was a surprise, but not unexpected. She was clad in a tight black outfit with protective pads around the joints. A gauntlet covered one arm and sleek oval goggles concealed her eyes. It was the uniform of a Peacekeeper hunter.

"Don't move, human, you're under arrest for attempted sabotage! Surrender yourself, or we'll take you in by force!"

"Choke on this."

He reached into his pocket and pulled out the mini pulse pistol he had managed to procure from a dead guard just before leaving the building. He fired wildly, unused to the weapon's recoil. The woman easily dodged the bursts and somersaulted down in front of him, knocking the pistol from his hands and striking him with a lightning-fast kick.

DK scrambled to his feet and ran around the nearest corner, not bothering to see if she pursued. He barely made it past a fire hydrant when a second one swung into view on a thin strand of cable. She landed gracefully on the roof of a magazine stand and brought down her weapon to bear on him. It was a combination between a pulse rifle and a crossbow. Aiming directly at him, she fired a ball-tipped bolt from the crossbow. Air escaped his lungs as the impact of the projectile knocked him flat on his back and found him covered in a snare net.

Looking up, the female's head was directly in front of the sun as it shone down into his eyes. He could see long raven-black tresses blowing around her pale face, its smoothness broken only by the goggles that concealed her eyes. It was the last thing he saw before a pantak jab from her sent him into unconsciousness.

***

"What happened? What did they do to him?"

John ran behind Kanor, flanked by Peacekeeper security on both sides. He was anxious to hear anything on DK's fate, but no one was talking.

"The hunters apprehended him only a few blocks away," Kanor said, clearly irritated. "We are going to question him and how he tried to sabotage us. He didn't plan it very well, did he?"

"I wouldn't know, Dr. Kanor."

Kanor snorted. He did not believe it for a moment, but priorities demanded he concentrate on the situation at hand. Crichton and his associates could always be questioned later.

They approached an armored vehicle where DK was standing, with a pair of handcuffs shackling him. Peacekeeper enforcement officers stood around, with weapons aimed point blank. The two hunters stood off to the side, conversing with Commissioner Crais, who had just arrived on the scene. DK remained silent, glancing at John out of the corner of his eyes.

"Excellent work, commissioner!" Kanor said as he approached. "I commend your people. Not even a full arn has passed and they have already captured this criminal."

"As I said earlier, Dr. Kanor, Gotham's streets will be kept safe and patrolled efficiently under my authority." Crais smiled uncomfortably. He was unused to praise.

"They are, indeed." Kanor turned his attention to DK. "You disappoint me, DK. You were such a good scientist. Such a pity you had to be drawn to such hopeless causes. Did you really think you would get away with trying to destroy the hard work our people have done on this world?"

DK smiled. "I guess I'm tired of being a lapdog to you and your masters, unlike some of my co-workers here." He focused his stare at John.

John knew the man he considered his best friend was only trying to protect him, but words stung him again in the space of twenty-four hours. If Kanor suspected he knew of any affiliation with the Earth resistance, everyone would be questioned- or worse. He hid his emotions the best he could.

"So you insist you and the dead resistance members in the tower acted entirely on your own?" Kanor's eyebrow arched slightly as he asked the question. "That seems a little hard to believe. I think a thorough questioning of all human personnel is in order. We may yet ascertain the answers we seek."

"DK," John said, forcing himself to speak. "Why did you do this? Do you know what you've done? This is stupid. You've turned against your friends." Barbara appeared next to John, exhausted from running to catch up.

"You're the one who's turned!" He screamed. "You're a goddamn traitor to your own people, Crichton! You want to live under the boots of these bastards, that's your decision. Me, I'd rather go down fighting!"

What happened next they were not prepared for. Peacekeeper hubris frequently prevented them from learning from simple mistakes, particularly binding prisoners from the front. Were DK's hand bound behind him, he would not have been able to slam his body against the guard in front of him and unsheathed his pulse pistol- which he did before anyone could stop him.

"Look out!" Kanor cried. "He has a weapon!"

"FREEDOM!" DK shouted as he squeezed the trigger of the pulse pistol.

The shots went in all directions, but avoided the area John stood with Barbara and Dr. Kanor. Instantly, two guards went down in a heap and a third took a grazing on his shoulder. It was his last act of defiance as the remaining Peacekeepers aimed their pulse weapons at him and cut him to pieces. His body convulsed in a spastic dance like a broken marionette as bolts of energy tore into him, burning his flesh and tearing apart his insides.

Closing his eyes tight, John desperately fought the urge to cry out.

Give no indication of how it affects you.

DK's voice sounded out in his head: Don't let my death be for nothing. He kept his head down, his face grimacing to the hardness of rock. He held Barbara tight, letting her weep into his chest. Her tears stained the front of his shirt.

Don't let them see you cry.

And then, everything went silent.

Opening his eyes, John could only catch a glimpse of DK's smoldering corpse, already being gathered up to be casually disposed of. Traitors were not given proper burials. The body would be incinerated, no mourners, witnesses, family or friends in attendance. No one to recognize he was here once. No one to recognize he had made a stand, no matter how futile it was.

"A pity this was. Now, we may never know who all his accomplices were. But, your men did do an admirable job, Commissioner Crais," Kanor said, oblivious to the fact Crais lost two men and a third injured by a prisoner already in custody.

Crais watched silently as the body of DK was put in the back of the troop vehicle the human had stood in front of only microts before. "My men were merely acting on instinct, Dr. Kanor. Things like this come with the job·unfortunately." Crais frowned.

It was his first day acting as commissioner, and already there was death. Casualties were expected during a Peacekeeper's career, he had accepted that. But it was his men that were lying on the ground as well, dead from simple carelessness. It was nothing to be proud of. He hated this part of the job, despite what others would say of all Peacekeepers in general.

"If you will excuse me Doctor, I have to see that this business is finished up." Crais turned to the two officers he had been conversing with. "Huntress Chatto, Huntress Sun? This way, please·"

The hunters trailed behind Crais as he walked through the throng of security. Passing by, the dark haired one turned her head and met Johns gaze. Whoever she was, she was attractive; alabaster skin contrasted smoothly against the black form-fitting armor she wore. He looked squarely into her eyes, covered by goggles designed for night viewing and concealing her identity, and saw his reflection staring back at him in duplicate. For a moment, her lips parted, as if she were going to speak·

And then she was gone. A helmeted Peacekeeper guard blocked his view and she disappeared into the growing crowd with the others. A wailing noise broke him out of his daze. It was not coming from the vehicle that departed, carrying DK's corpse. There was a little girl in the crowd was crying, her young mother trying in vain to calm her fears.

"They killed him, Mommy! The bad men killed him! I hate them!" The child wailed pitifully.

"Shh· hush, Caitlin," her mother said, looking nervous. Even mothers feared their children's passion if it became untethered.

"I wish Batman were here, he'd stop the bad men!"

"Caitlin! Stop it! Do you want them to hear you?"

"I want Batman· I want Batman·" The child's sobbing continued.

John watched on. Perhaps the little girl had the bad dream, too. How did she know about the Batman? The stories reached even the young, giving them some vain sense of hope. She was even younger than he had been when his parents died. He could almost be envious. She still had her mother.

And it was three times in two days that the name Batman came to him. It seemed like more than a coincidence. Fate was dealing a cruel hand to him.

"John," Barbara said. "We should go now." She touched his cheek gently; hers was still wet with tears.

"Yes, time to get back to work, Dr. Crichton," Kanor said sternly. "There is nothing more to see. It's all over." Kanor walked away.

Rage burned in John's eyes. "No, it isn't," he said under his breath.

***

Part 2: Night Falls

John leaned forward in his chair with his hands folded while he listened to the message on his answering machine. Anger slowly boiled inside of him from the images of the past day still burning in his mind.

"Dr. Crichton, in an effort to find out the answers to the feeble attempt at sabotage that occurred today, Commissioner Crais has issued instructions for all human and Sebacean personnel to submit to questioning to gain any information that may have been overlooked. Your appointment is tomorrow at 1:30, by the Earth clock. Don't mess up, John. I would suggest you curtail your drinking, as well. You're one of the most brilliant members on our staff. Your breakthroughs have aided us greatly. I would hate to see your smoldering remains lying on the street like your associates were earlier this afternoon. Until then, have a good day, Doctor·"

That was his breaking point. He stood up abruptly, grabbed the answering machine and smashed it against the wall. Their plan to cripple their Peacekeeper jailers had crashed and burned, his best friend was dead and he really felt like a traitor to humanity. DK's final words haunted him, even if they were only spoken to protect him and the others.

He picked up the glass of Scotch he had poured and swallowed the remains. It was the last of the bottle. ÎJust say no' had not applied since the Peacekeepers ruined his life.

Unfortunately, drinking did not make the guilt go away.

You will not find the answers in a bottle·

The message from the night before had said something about that as well. Who could have known that? And what did it all mean? Breach the northern perimeter and travel twenty kilometers to the manor ruins. What manor?

John reached for his keys, instinctively knowing the trip he was going to take. He gave the apartment the once over to make sure there was no Earth resistance material left. He was not sure if he would be coming back, but just in case, it was best not to leave anything they could use to hang him with. He wanted to call Barbara to see how she was holding up, but decided against it. It would be best for now that no one knew where he was going, since he himself was not entirely sure.

Turning over the ignition, the car quickly sped towards the northern part of the city. All of Gotham City was surrounded by a walled perimeter, much like Berlin had been during the Cold War of the twentieth century. The human population was not allowed to roam the countryside without special permission. Only closely guarded farming collectives and mines were out in the rural areas, for the purpose of raising crops for the city populations, or for prison labor. Where exactly a manor would be, intact or otherwise, he could not even hazard a guess.

It was early in the evening and there some daylight still remained as he reached the checkpoint gate where vehicles entered and exited the northern perimeter. Only then did it dawn on him he did not have an exit permit or even a legitimate reason to be there. He had rarely ever seen the gates in this part of the city, let alone drove through them. It was too late; the guards could see him approaching. Turning around would look suspicious. Perhaps he could just speed up and knock the gate down. It was only a chain link fence, after all.

And it was just pulse weapons that cooked DK's flesh in seconds.

A pair of Peacekeeper guards stood along each side and motioned for him to stop. Both were carrying pulse rifles, but their black reflective helmets were off, revealing young unblemished faces: fresh recruits. He began formulating the possibility of bluffing his way through the gate. How hard could it be to fool a couple of kids?

"What is your destination?" The one guard asked, trying to act as professional as he could. There was little traffic through the northern gates, so many of the guards fought off boredom as part of the job.

"Raven's Gate Farming Collective, nearby." John said. "I'm going for a quality control inspection."

"What? At this time of the day?"

"Yeah, Somebody found a toe in their hotdog." He could always try a little levity. Being young, they might be swayed a little.

They did not even crack a smile. "We need to see your identification and your exit permit."

He pulled out his identification card from Peacekeeper Headquarters that he carried, hoping it would be enough.

"Exit permit, please."

I have no exit permit," John said sternly. He looked the guard straight in the eye, hoping for a Zen moment, one where they would take his word and let him drive through with no hassles. There was no such luck.

"Step out of the car."

"Look, I'm in a hurry. I-"

"Step out of the car." The guards raised their pulse rifles at him.

He tensed and slowly stepped out of the vehicle. One guard kept his weapon aimed at him while the other began to search the car.

"Well, look at this," the guard said. He reached down and pulled something from the floor of the passenger side. It was one of the Earth resistance pamphlets. In his rush to leave, he forgot he had left one in the car.

"Looks like we got an Earth resistance sympathizer here, Thonn. And one who works for our side no less." The guard walked around the car to John. "Peacekeeper High Command doesn't take traitors in their midst very lightly."

The other guard laughed. "They'll take you apart like that nurfer who got shot earlier today."

John's anger began to grow. "Shut up."

"You shut up. You're in a lot of trouble, Earth trash." The other guard began to push his fingers against the back of John's head. "They may even send you to Arkham Asylum. I hear the human females there got it real hard. The guards like to have their way with-"

He snapped. Turning hard, he slammed his fist full force into the taunting guard's face. All his pent-up anger and frustration came rushing out in an instant.

The other guard, startled at the sudden attack, stepped forward to fire his weapon. John wheeled, grabbed the pulse rifle by the barrel, and yanked it from the surprised Peacekeeper. John bought the rifle up and swung hard at the man, striking him in the head.

As the guard went down, the other one got back up and grabbed him from behind, trying to get him in a headlock. John lifted him off the ground and threw his weight against the small booth behind them, the impact knocking the guard off of him. Before he could react, he grabbed him and began punching him again and again. He could not stop his assault, even though the guard was already unconscious.

Coming to his senses, he let go of the guard, his face a bloody pulp. The other guard was knocked out from the blow from the pulse rifle. John stood there for a moment; breathing hard and feeling his blood pump so hard it hurt his chest. The guards were not dead, but there was no way he could get out of the situation without retribution.

Punching the large red button located on the side of the booth, he jumped into the car and punched the gas, spinning tires as he raced away from the gates. Night was approaching fast, and he wanted to reach this manor, wherever it was, if he still could.

The winding roads were cracked and laden with potholes from years of neglect. John carefully drove around them, watching his odometer to gauge the distance he traveled, waiting for the sight of a manor to appear. As he drove along the roads, he was at least glad to see the forests were still intact and beginning their transformation into a pallet of reds, yellows and orange as autumn came into full bloom. He even saw an occasional deer grazing in a meadow off the road. There was no sign yet of pursuit from the Peacekeepers. Maybe he got lucky and his journey would go smoothly.

The flash and explosion of a pulse weapons blast exploding on the road directly behind him told him otherwise. Twice in one day, and misfortune still had not let him down. In his rearview mirror, John saw the shape of a Marauder flying above the tree line.

Frantically, he swerved his car about; trying to steer clear of the energy bursts the Marauder rained down on him as well avoiding flying off the road into the steep inclines that were appearing to his right. The sky was growing dark, making it harder to see, but he did not dare turn on his headlights, lest he give the Marauder a clear target.

A stray burst razed the rear left tire of his car, blowing it apart. Rubber flew in fragments as he struggled to control the swerving vehicle. Despite his skill, he could not regain control at the speed he was moving and it crossed over the railing, careening down a steep ridge and disappeared through the undergrowth. John slammed his foot on the brakes, hoping to stop a lethal impact against a tree or rock.

The shrubs on the hill slowed him down until the car slammed hard against a thick oak. John's head bounced harmlessly against the air bag that deployed from the steering wheel. He leaned his head against the bag for several moments before sitting up straight again. He checked himself for any serious injuries- a few cuts and scrapes, nothing more. The sound of the Marauder landing nearby reached his ears, as he struggled free of the car.

Looking back at his car, there was no way to back it out of the position it was stuck in, let alone get it back on the road. It was totaled. He had a better chance in the forest, where dense tree cover and the darkness would hide him from the commandos. From everything he heard about them, they were worse than bloodhounds.

He ran using what was left of the light to dodge around trees, thorny shrubs, and anything he might trip over. The underbrush tore at his clothes, mud closed around his shoes and the branches of trees reached out at grotesque angles, seeming to come alive to seize him, all in the service of the Peacekeepers. His breath came in hard gasps, howling with each exhalation. His lungs burned despite the cool October breeze whispering through the woods. He only stopped momentarily to faintly make out the voices of the commandos as they continued their pursuit, the Marauder itself circling the area overhead, searching for a trace of him.

He ran for hours. His legs became bruised and bleeding from crashing into jagged rock and sharp branches, his shirt and skin were damp with perspiration and his whole body ached. But he pressed on- fear of capture was a strong motivator as much as his own determination. Sounds from far behind told him the commandos had not ceased the chase. All he could do was stop for a few spare minutes to catch his breath, and hope he was far enough ahead to avoid them. And if, by some small chance, he could elude capture, what would he do next?

***

Exhaustion overtook him and he collapsed at the edge of the woods. The forest cover had disappeared. An open meadow lay before him, with a cragged hill at its far end.

John stood back up, and leaned against a tree, his breathing labored. All the drinking had taken a toll on his physique. He had run for hours, struggling to keep ahead of the commandos and the Marauder. They had not caught him yet, but the pursuit was relentless. The chase dragged on all night and he had found no manor, nor any sanctuary to avoid them. Maybe it was all a hoax. It was too late for recriminations anyway. He assaulted two Peacekeeper guards, left the city without clearance and made himself look suspicious by fleeing. Too bad there were no more supplies of arsenic or cyanide·

The hill was a good quarter mile away from the edge of the woods. Hopefully, the forest continued on the other side. A point of light began to shine through a crag of rock on top of the hill. Dawn was now approaching.

John's eyes focused tighter on the top of the hill, or what he had thought was one. It was a structure. The morning light expanded in the opening on the hill, creating the outline of a window. Slowly an outline revealed the cracks and ruins of walls and towers. The hill was a foundation with a huge ruin stretched across it. It had to be the manor, or the remains of one.

Seizing the renewed opportunity, he broke out in a run across the field. If he could reach it in time, he could hide from the commandos. Its size became apparent the closer he got. Whoever had lived there had been richer than the Rockefellers; it was as much a castle as a manor. Its walls were partially collapsed towards the back and sides, its many windows broken and vines and other weeds had taken residence inside the ruins as well as all around the building. Whatever disaster had visited it, it still resisted deterioration.

Climbing up the hill to the foundation, he heard voices yelling at him across the meadow. Looking back, the commandos had cleared the woods and spotted him. There were four of them, fully armed, with the fifth one flying around nearby in the Marauder.

"Lt. Melkor! There he is!"

Bursts from pulse rifles exploded all around him as he dodged around the rubble at the foundation's base. He entered the manor through a gaping hole in the back of the rear wall, the sounds of pulse weapons striking the thick stone. As he jumped through, he could hear the sound of the Marauder coming in close over the treetops.

The manor was ornate, with heavily decorated rooms showing traces of its former splendor. The remains of crystal chandeliers still hung delicately in several rooms. Tattered tapestries draped some of the windows, with colors still vivid despite the years of wear and tear. Large pieces of carved furniture still remained intact, only dust coated the grandeur they once eluded. Plaster and wooden beams littered the floor and marred the opulence of the rooms. However long it had been like this, looters had failed to confiscate many of the valuables.

John concentrated on finding some kind of weapon. Anything he could use to defend himself would aid his situation considerably. Maybe there were spears or swords hanging on the walls in one of the rooms? Even an old musket would be helpful. If he were going to die, he would rather go down swinging and shooting.

Entering a room that served as the manors study the muffled sounds of the commandos entering the ruins reached him. If something did not happen quickly, his flight to this place would have been for nothing.

Approaching the bookcases, he scanned the few remaining books left on the shelves. Throwing a heavy book at a commando was not an ideal option, but he needed something. Dusty, vintage copies still sat on the shelves: Crime and Punishment, The Divine Comedy, Collected Works of Shakespeare, Atlas Shrugged, Beyond Good and Evil and The Jewish Question caught his attention.

"Up here! Spread out! He has to be in one of these rooms."

An almost inaudible hiss caused him to turn around. One of the bookcases silently swung open and revealed a brass pole that he had seen in old firehouses. John looked down the chamber to see where the pole led. A deep black maw stared back at him. The approaching footsteps of the Peacekeepers told him his choices had run out.

Wrapping his arms and legs around the pole, he slid down into the unfamiliar darkness. Looking up, the bookcase closed again, removing any trace he had been in the study. The Peacekeepers entered the room, examined it, and left just as quickly, still unable to locate him.

His feet finally struck bottom. As they did, lights came on, illuminating a vast cavern. John stood frozen in the spot he had landed, looking around in astonishment. Some kind of command center was set up towards the middle of the cavern. In the center was a dais with computer equipment and monitors checking systems and regional broadcasts. At one end, there were several vehicles parked, their details cloaked in shadows. At the other end, there was an assortment of odd curios: an oversized Lincoln penny stood upright at the far end, flanked by a giant life-size replica of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and what looked like a giant typewriter. Several glass booths displayed unusual outfits- fetish wear, perhaps. Each one was lit from the inside, showcasing their details.

He walked among the items, greeting them with a combination of disbelief mixed with wonder. Unlike the burned out manor up above, the cave was active and well maintained. Whoever built it was still occupying and using it. There was no trace of dust or ruination that had visited the giant home above him. But what was the purpose of this place? Was it a Peacekeeper installation? Did they even know about it?

Walking up the stairs to the dais in the center of the chamber, he scanned the controls, looking for something that might remotely clue him in. A large green button blinked on and off on the center of the console. Shrugging his shoulders, he pressed it. It was good a place to start as any.

A large flat monitor mounted on the cave wall began to glow and flutter. A face slowly came into focus on the screen. It was a man- older, judging by his gray hair and countenance, but with an intense gaze that demanded John's full attention, which he got without hesitation.

"Good morning, Dr. Crichton." The man said to John, whose mouth hung open in surprise. "I've been waiting for you for quite some time. My name is Bruce Wayne·"

To be continued·

Part 2 >>

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Farscape/Batman: Dark Knight, Rising Son, Pt. 1

By: Spacelord

Rating: PG-13 (Adult situations, profanity and violence).

Spoilers: None. This is AU. The Farscape characters are placed in the Batman universe.

Disclaimers: Farscape is the property of Henson Company, Hallmark Entertainment and the Sci-Fi Channel. Batman is the property of DC Comics. Dr. Kanor and story concept are property of Christopher L. Stine. All characters used here are for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement is intended and no monetary compensation has been received.

Category: Crossover, Farscape/Batman.

Archiving: Certainly. Please let me know when you do it.

Note: Talk about a red herring! I have extensively re-written this story. This epic took a long time to create and it demanded revision. I hope I succeeded. Thanks to Mreen for her beta work and infinitely helpful advice. Dedicated to Bob Kane. Please send feedback to clstine@paonline.com. Enjoy.

 

 
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